The San Francisco 49ers' fourth-quarter comeback victories at Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit and Seattle obscured an important part of quarterback Alex Smith's game this season. He was actually much better at home.
2011 QBR Differentials, Home vs. Road
That came into focus for an NFC West blog regular, Crimsoncrew, upon reading an earlier item about Smith and the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees. Smith's NFL passer rating at home is 99.8 (82.7 road). His Total QBR, which also takes into account sacks and game situations, stands at 71.6 out of 100 -- a league-high 42.3 points higher than his 29.3 QBR on the road.
"Other than the Cowboys game in Week 2, which was still a decent QBR performance, Smith has been at or above Pro Bowl level in every home game," Crimsoncrew wrote. "While I'm still a bit skeptical of the mysterious formula that is the QBR, in Smith's case I absolutely believe it's more accurate than passer rating because of the number of sacks he takes rather than taking chances with the ball. Despite that, Smith has more than twice as many TDs (12 to 5), only one more INT (3 to 2), and takes less than half as many sacks (13 to 31) at home as he does on the road."
Crimsoncrew's comments initiated a call to John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information, who did the research appearing in the chart. I then asked Smith about the disparity during the 49ers' media availability session Tuesday.
"It's a great question," Smith said, unaware that Crimsoncrew was the source behind it. "Obviously, crowd noise plays into that, especially on third down, when you’re trying to throw the ball on the road. Anywhere you go, you're going to be dealing with crowd noise. So, at home, to be able to use the cadence and be able to communicate a little easier verbally, obviously helps. I think that might play into it."
The 49ers are home against New Orleans in the divisional playoffs Saturday. Thank you, Crimsoncrew, for advancing the conversation.